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“Bad” Cholesterol can cause Cancer to Spread

Update Date: May 07, 2014 02:32 PM EDT

Even though all cancers can be harmful for the body, the severity of the cancer is determined greatly by the location and the stage. In a new study, researchers uncovered one contributor to the spread of cancer. The team from the University of Sydney reported that low density lipoprotein (LDL), which is often dubbed the "bad" cholesterol, can help cancer spread throughout the body.

"One of the things that makes cancer so difficult to treat is the fact that it can spread around the body," Senior author of the report, Associate Professor Thomas Grewal from the University's Faculty of Pharmacy, said reported by Medical Xpress. "Most of the cells in our bodies stick to neighboring cells through the help of 'Velcro-like' molecules on their surface known as integrins. Unfortunately, integrins also help cancer cells that have broken away from a cancerous tumor to take root elsewhere in the body."

Grewal, who has been working on uncovering the link between cancer and cholesterol with Professor Carlos Enrich from the University of Barcelona in Spain, found that bad cholesterol was responsible for the machinery behind the process of cell migration. According to the research, bad cholesterol is in charge of trafficking tiny vessels that carry integrins. Since integrins can also exist in cancer cells, the movement of these integrins leads to the spread of cancer.

"Our research found that having high amounts of 'bad' cholesterol seem to help the integrins in cancer cells to move and spread," Grewal explained. "In contrast, we found that high levels of 'good' [high density lipoprotein] cholesterol keeps integrins inside cells and may therefore protect against cancer cell spread."

The findings add more evidence that maintaining good cholesterol is vital for overall health. The study, "Cholesterol Regulates Syntaxin 6 Trafficking at trans-Golgi Network Endosomal Boundaries," was published in Cell Reports.

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